Play Writing

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Play Writing

I have found some basic advise on a website regarding writing a play. It is something I've been considering for a while and now believe I have a basic plot in mind,characters and how I want things to play out. Is there any tips that anyone can give me regarding speech, I really need to make it realistic.

I've never attempted a play but have completed a novel with a fair amount of dialogue which I guess presented similar challenges. The important thing I think is to start hearing conversations in your head. You'll need someone else to read out the final product to check that they work but you need to get to that final product. Without being creepy about it, have a go at sitting on your own in a reasonably busy cafe and jot down snatches of what you hear around you to get a feel for how people talk to each other (but obviously make sure you're not noticed!). You don't really want to reproduce this because effective dialogue in plays often isn't the same as real life, but it may be helpful in learning the ebb and flow of a conversation. I suspect the hardest part of play-writing is getting the 'big' structure right - i.e. the pacing and the way the plot moves. I don't think there's any easy way of learning this (although I suspect that's what the books are for). Rob


Hi Beeme - one of my essays last term was actually about realism in theatre, of which dialogue is a big part. So I have to recommend 'A Doll's House' by Henrik Ibsen and 'The Iceman Cometh' by Eugene O'Neill for examples of naturalistic dialogue. Maybe you could get hold of copies of these plays or read parts online. But Ibsen and O'Neill really are the master craftmen of realistic speech. My personal opinion is that the speech has to have a fluid feel, but you need to retain some of the non-fluency features of actual human speech such as pauses and false-starts. Hope this helps and good luck! Magic xxx


Thank you Rob, Magic and Dom. I'll take all your advise on board, I've started reading 'A Dolls House' online. Thanks for the tips! Beeme xx


Hi Beeme, for naturalistic dialogue I would recommend reading the plays of Mike Leigh (Abigail's Party; Life is Sweet. The book I have is NAKED AND OTHER SCREENPLAYS - Brilliant! And I would also recommend Alan Bennett's TALKING HEADS - absolutely priceless! You'll hear the voices audibly, if you know what I mean. Good luck. trev
Thank you very much Trever! I'll go and see if I can read their work online otherwise I'm off to the book store. Beme xx


Reading the approach of other playwrights is useful but you have to bear one thing in mind. Realistic dialogue in one situation may not seem realistic in another. In other words, it really depends on what kind of play you are attempting to write. The 'flow' of a farce is very different from that of a tragedy or a melodrama. If you have no previous experience of the art, I think you have to write, then review (accepting the criticism of others) and then rewrite. You may have to undertake several iterations before it 'feels' realistic to you. But anyway. Good luck and best wishes. Helvigo Jenkins

Helvigo Jenkins

Read stuff aloud. Your folks/partner/friends mught think you're nuts, but it really does help. Good luck.
Get down what you want to say and then read back aloud, if it's unnatural you will stumble and falter all the way through it.


Thank you Helvigo Jenkins, Pink book and Sooz006!


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